This morning as I was driving The Littles to school (which I have to admit I am cherishing during my time off), we were listening to the radio. On one station they were talking about the extreme "summer like" weather we are expected to have this week and wondering if this was an indicator of what summer will be like here since our last two summers have actually been relatively cool in terms of averages over the last decade or so.
They then turned the discussion to the end of the school year since the weather is likely to make students antsy and anticipating being outside enjoying the weather rather than in school. They started discussing gifts to buy for classroom teachers at the end of the school year and invited listeners to call in and provide some suggestions.
Perhaps my viewpoint is skewed because I have always worked in the inner city but I was absolutely flabbergasted at some of the suggestions these parents had. If a family presented me with a spa day, I would feel terrible accepting it. Again, I believe this is because where I teach, that sort of gift would likely mean rent wasn't being paid or food wasn't being put on the table. In the 'burbs, this may not be so. (I did get a beautiful learning tree picture frame from a parent when I was a student teacher in a wealthier district.)
Recently in a teaching forum I have been a part of since my undergrad years, someone had brought this discussion up and she admitted to the forum that she has actually returned/declined gifts from students that she didn't like (she works in a private school). This absolutely appalled me because a) I'm thinking she should seriously be happy to get anything at all from ANYONE and b) how freaking rude is it to not accept a gift because you don't like the child??
Oddly enough, some of my most memorable trinkets have come from my naughty kids -- the ones who drive me crazy and make me look forward to cocktails on Friday night (afternoon!). It makes me wonder sometimes if I would feel differently if all of my experience was in the 'burbs where there tend to be a lot of helicopter parents who are much more involved but also more lavish in their gift giving. I know I did not become a teacher to get gifts -- seeing my students shine and succeed is my gift. I don't know. The way I look at it is, yes teaching is tough and sometimes it is more frustrating than anything else. However, I am getting paid to be there and I do get time off to recover from the stress and everything. I just don't find myself focusing on the gifts I "could" be getting from families.
I don't buy separate gifts for my girls' teachers either (I do contribute to the "end of year" gift that a room mom usually gets going -- wonder what its like to have a room mom *sigh*). I know those teachers work hard and I respect them greatly. However, sometimes when I am in that school, I feel so jealous of how much easier their job is because they aren't dealing with the behavior aspects that I have in my district. I fully realize I have chosen to work where I do -- and believe me, despite griping about it sometimes, I really do love working with the children there...the adults notsomuch but the kiddos are what keep me there -- and that's just fine. But I think I am in the camp that doesn't believe teachers should be showered with gifts just because we teach children. Yes our job is hard, YES we are unappreciated much of the time, YES the politics surrounding education suck whether you teach in Florida, California or New York (or anywhere in between).
But to me...the best teacher gifts are the little notes my students would leave on my desk when I wasn't looking. The little mini candy bars they would sneak onto my in tray with their papers. The coloring pages and pictures they would leave me and then help me tape onto the wall. The best gifts are the hugs from the children whose home lives are rough (not necessarily bad but rough) who are just appreciative that they are being nurtured at school. They are the light bulb moments from a child who has struggled with math every year before he got to me and suddenly, it makes sense to him and a huge grin spreads across his face.
No amount of money and no present could ever be more meaningful than any of those things. I'm happy just to make a difference with children, regardless of whether or not I ever receive a spa day or a gift card to a restaurant.